Case Study: Lambing

College: Science
School / Department: Life Science
Project / Innovation Title: Lambing
Start & End Dates (where applicable): Feb-March every year
Project Lead Name: Simon Clegg/ Jonathan Cooper

Animal science has many benefits, but it is relatively rare for students to get the opportunity to work with animals and to assist in a key aspect of life. Handling of animals is common place, but the ability to apply the anatomy, management, handling, disease and behaviour in a single aspect is rare. Therefore we were keen to include an opportunity for students to put all these aspects of different modules together to produce something different for them to do as part of their degree in animal behaviour and welfare or Bioveterinary science.

Key outcomes of many of the modules are to have an understanding of disease mechanisms, or behavioural mechanisms which can be used to improve animal welfare. Part of the behaviour prior to birthing by sheep is the pawing of the ground, which can be an indicator that something is about to happen. This allows the students the opportunity to assess this in a large flock (barn is around 25m x 15m in size), and creates a real life implementation of the skills and information learned within the lectures.

For this reason, through the BVS2003 module (Animal Health and Disease) we offer the students the opportunity to go and be involved with delivering lambs from the University’s 300 breeding ewes. Unlike many other opportunities, this is not a sit and watch option, the students are actively involved and experience the highs of delivering a life, and sometimes the lows of losing one. Students have described having to get their hands inside the animal to aid with difficult births, and having to aid lambs in finding the teats to obtain vital colostrum- a difficult skill, which is extremely well received on CVs for relevant jobs.

It is rare to hear feedback like ‘amazing’, ‘a fantastic opportunity’, ‘emotional’ or ‘life changing’ in feedback for many things in teaching, but these are words used by students for this experience. It also provides the opportunity for students to take photos, holding a lamb which is a few hours old, and thus offers a nice lasting memory of university life.

As an inclusive event, it allows students who have disabilities (we have had students with physical disabilities before go and partake), as well as those who suffer from mental health issues, and other issues to go and be part of something special. This experience has a positive impact on the students, often reducing mental health issues and signs. Priority is given to third years (as it is their final chance) but due to dissertation deadlines, few tend to take part. The many remaining spaces are for 2nd and first year students. The only stipulation is that pregnant (or soon to be pregnant people) do not take part due to the risk of infection from Toxoplasma– a human and sheep abortive protozoan.

It is an opportunity for students to take part in as a volunteer, and many use this to get a reference for veterinary medicine applications. It also offers a useful talking point in interviews.


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